The Glengarry News

MANOR MAKEOVER

- BY STEVEN WARBURTON News Staff

Williamsto­wn’s Sir John Johnson House will soon undergo a massive renovation project that could, when it’s completed, offer long-term accommodat­ions.

“What we want to do is get the house to a state where it can pay for its upkeep,” says Brent Lafave, president of the Sir John Johnson Manor House Committee.

The renovation­s are expected to begin in March and should cost about $1.4 million. Last week, Parks Canada announced that it was investing $450,000 in the project.

Mr. Lafave says the approval of funds was the result of his committee’s lobbying efforts.

“It was becoming obvious that structural failure was a major issue,” he told The News, adding that the problem was getting so bad that the house would, potentiall­y, have to be closed if it wasn’t repaired. “We could see where floors were dipping and the ceilings were sagging.”

As the house was built toward the end of the 18th Century, it’s understand­able that it’s fallen into a state of disrepair. Mr. Lafave says that the floors and rafters need to be replaced, the roof needs reshinglin­g and the building’s load-carrying capacities need to be augmented.

The committee brought the house‘s condition to the attention of Parks Canada in 2012, when it suggested that the house be stabilized, renovated and refurbishe­d with a view of having rental units in the upper part of the building.

Parks Canada agreed to the committee’s proposal and has already invested $50,000 to pay for an engineerin­g feasibilit­y study.

In order to raise the additional funds to complete the overhaul, the committee has a sub-committee dedicated to fundraisin­g. Mr. Lafave intends to meet with various government representa­tives as well as appeal to the public for both corporate and personal donations.

When the renovation­s are finished, the committee hopes the house will include three bedrooms and a suite to accommodat­e people who want to stay at the house on a temporary or more permanent basis. Rental revenue from these suites would go to maintenanc­e. Right now, Parks Canada pays the bills and looks after the grounds.

Additional­ly, there is a furnishing committee that would decorate each of the rooms according to various historical­ly appropriat­e themes. One room might be dedicated to the Loyalist Sir John Johnson, for whom the Manor House is named. Another room might be inspired by Hugh McGillis, the retired fur trader who bought the house from Sir Johnson in 1819.

The renovation­s could last as long as two years, which means that the Williamsto­wn library branch, currently operating out of the Manor House, would have to find a new temporary location.

Karen Franklin, Director of Library Services for Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry, says her board is looking at some options but that discussion­s are still in the preliminar­y stage.

She offered one possible location, the nearby St. Mary’s Centre, but stressed that nothing is final as of yet.

Parks Canada estimates that the house was built sometime between 1785 and 1787. Curiously, the house itself may not have been built for Sir Johnson but for the miller who oversaw the nearby saw and grist mills.

Today, the Manor House is a popular tourist attraction in South Glengarry. It is also home to the annual Manor House Social, which takes place this year July 20 at 6:30 p.m.

 ?? STEVEN WARBURTON PHOTO ?? LANDMARK REVIVAL: The manor will be getting much-needed repairs to counter the toll time has taken on the landmark.
STEVEN WARBURTON PHOTO LANDMARK REVIVAL: The manor will be getting much-needed repairs to counter the toll time has taken on the landmark.

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